On Friday, FBI senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who sent anti-Trump text messages while assisting with the Hillary Clinton and Russia investigations (along with anti-Hillary and anti-Bernie texts, too), was fired. Strzok’s lawyer confirmed on Monday that his client had been formally fired from the FBI—however, the reason remains unclear.
Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team after the Justice Department learned about texts sent to FBI lawyer Lisa Page on an official government cell phone during the 2016 election. In the messages, Page asks: ”[Trump is] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” to which Strzok responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” While these texts were a private expression of how Trump disgusts Strzok (and many others), they raise questions as to his credibility as he helped lead the bureau’s investigations.
Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz released a report concerning Strzok’s text messages, his personal email account that had been used for sensitive information and his alleged decision to work slowly when examining emails related to the Clinton investigation before the 2016 election. Hundreds of texts were examined and Horowitz claimed to be “deeply troubled” by the exchanges.
Trump proceeded to announce that Strzok had targeted him during the campaign before calling him “treasonous” and a “disgrace.” Earlier this month, at a congressional hearing, Strzok was bombarded with questions from Republican lawmakers who probed his character by asking personal questions, even questioning his marriage. Strzok claims he never leaked information about the Russia investigation. He said there is “no evidence of bias in my professional actions,” expressing “significant regret” for the texts but also condemning Trump’s recent rhetoric concerning the Russia investigation. He said, “This investigation is not politically motivated; it is not a witch hunt; it is not a hoax.” He went on to argue that calling him to testify was “just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”
After the hearing, the FBI originally decided Strzok should be demoted and face a 60-day suspension. However, FBI Director David Bowdich had the final say and decided Strzok should be fired altogether. The FBI has not released a statement or commented on their decision.
Strzok is the third highest-ranking FBI official involved in the Russia investigation who has been fired amid Trump’s “witch hunt” rhetoric. Trump removed James Comey from his position as the FBI director and cited the Russia case as his reason. Later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions removed Comey’s deputy Andrew McCabe because Sessions claimed he misled investigators. Now, Strzok has been fired and it seems Trump is protecting himself by picking off investigators one by one. Both McCabe and Strzok were fired before they were eligible for pension and health benefits.
Strzok’s lawyer Aitan Goelman said:
The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical bureau practice, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the F.B.I. intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters. This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans. A lengthy investigation and multiple rounds of congressional testimony failed to produce a shred of evidence that Special Agent Strzok’s personal views ever affected his work.
In typical Trump fashion, he tweeted his response to the FBI firing Strzok:
Also typical for Trump tweets, his statement makes less and less sense the more thought you give it. Was “bad player” Strzok just fired or does “the list of bad players in the FBI and DOJ get longer and longer?” It can’t be both. Either way, Trump is knocking down the Russia investigation one agent at a time, and succeeding.